The Wheel of Time, in a nutshell, is basically Lord of the Rings on steroids. It’s longer, it’s even more epic in scope, and even more boring. It’s essentially a single story spread out over fourteen books, which is why I have reviewed it all in one go as opposed to reviewing each book individually. There is a lot to talk about but to put it simply, The Wheel of Time is a work of Epic Fantasy revolving around the prophecised hero, The Dragon Reborn Rand al’Thor and his friends as they get dragged into an ever expanding story to defeat the ancient evil god The Dark One as the prophecised last battle Tarmon Gai’don grows ever nearer.
Basically the book is standard Epic Fantasy fair, with the main bad guy being an ultimate evil with minimal direct influence as opposed to a more physical antagonist for the heroes. It uses a lot of common fantasy tropes, most notably being it’s reliance on prophecy and fate. The world of The Wheel of Time is very deterministic in nature, where everything is seemingly written into fate, with every character having a pre-set destiny. This includes the Dragon Reborn himself. In fact a few of main characters are notable in that they Ta’Veren, meaning the pattern of fate basically weaves itself around them. As a result of this most of the Ta’Veren characters seem a bit Mary Sue like, including Rand al’Thor and his companions, since as the story goes on it seems to use this Ta’Veren status to justify the huge number of ass pulls which get them out of trouble.
My main issue is primarily the sheer number of characters. By the end I found myself struggling to remember anyone who wasn’t a major character within the story. Many times I have seen a side character die a dramatic and tear filled death, only I can’t remember who they are are or where they’ve come from. After around the fifth book I stopped trying to make sense of who the new characters were and sort of just rolled with it, if they died. Like, sure, I know who you are Mr Guy Who Has Just Died. The length of the story also means that a lot of characters spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing, or simply travelling without any clear aim. In fact most of the series is either sitting around doing nothing, travelling, and maybe dealing with the occasional bit of meaningless politics only vaguely related to the main plot.
The main story arcs which run throughout the books tend to overstay their welcome. The most notable examples include Rand al’Thor’s increasing mental instability thanks to the split personality of the previous dragon residing in his head, and the political drama which unfolds amongst the Aes Sedai. In the case of Rand al’Thor the insanity seems to exist to make him edgier and more dangerous as a character. I can see why the story arc was necessary to a degree since his character is overpowered to an amazing degree and he needed something to hold him back without limiting his actual power. Yet I felt like it went on too long and made him less sympathetic to the point where I really struggled to get behind him until he eventually got over himself in the last few books.
The Aes Sedai political stuff, is something I hate primarily because it is a dragged out storyline that exists for the sole purpose of creating drama for the Aes Sedai characters while giving them something to do until the last battle comes along. Not only that but is solved in short order once the last battle is about to begin. These aren’t the only story lines which are dragged out but they all seem to follow this same pattern. They’ll be introduced, then they’ll drag on for several books before finally being solved in the last three books to tie up loose ends ready for the final battle. A lot of the sub plots towards the end seem to exist to provide filler before the final battle begins, and to be honest the pacing of these story lines is so dragged on reading I get the impression that any sensible writer would have finished the series before reaching book ten.
The Wheel of Time is a very long series, so long in fact that I actually have difficulty recalling where certain events happened in the middle of the series, and the plots of several books seem to blur together after a while. I am unsure how long the series should have been in order to be a functional and readable series, but I do know that fourteen books is far too long. To his credit, Brandon Sanderson did a good job wrapping up the last free books following Robert Jordan’s demise but by that point the damage had already been done. I was disappointed that the series didn’t turn out how I expected it to be, but ultimately I came to the conclusion that the series’ problem is excess. I never thought it would be possible to be too extreme when writing an epic fantasy, but The Wheel of Time proves that such a thing is possible. In my opinion it personifies everything that could go wrong in a fantasy series, and in my personal experience it serves as a warning to others in the genre to know when what they’re writing is too much.
IN A WORD: EXCESSIVE